How I got into coding: via my dad


3 min read

It's Father's Day in the UK, so I thought I'd talk about my father, since he's the reason I got into coding in the first place.

His story starts at university, back in the days where a computer took up a whole room. He learnt programming, but wrote it all on paper. Which strikes me as a hard way to write it: there's no auto-completion and no way to know if what you've written is correct.

And then we jump forward in time to when we got an Amstrad PCW. He wrote games in BASIC and sent them to the relevant magazine. I got mentioned in there for my bug testing of them.

I took it as read that programming was possible and easy. And I wanted to do it too. I learnt some basic BASIC, but never really did a lot with it. As far as I was concerned a computer was for playing games.

Later, we got a PC and Dad moved on to Visual Basic. I would see him with a form open that had buttons and inputs and text on it and I thought that was so cool. Not that I did any of it - computers were still for playing games, as far as I was concerned. And we only had one in the house, so you had to use your time on it wisely (ie to play games).

But I did know enough about how programming worked (maybe just by watching Dad) to write a program on my graphics calculator as soon as I got one for Maths A level (although everyone in the class did the same - I was just following the herd there).

At university I learnt Pascal and when I came home for the holidays, Dad pointed out it was like Visual Basic. At which point I then actually did some Visual Basic programming.

Sometime after I left university and had a job that closed for the three working days between Christmas and New Year I didn't know what to do with myself with all that time off. Dad handed me a PHP book, so I spent the time learning that. And then didn't use it and immediately forgot it all. He, though, is still all about the PHP.

In the present day, Dad is everyone's computer helpline (it's rare that he doesn't get a call or message from someone needing help when I'm visiting). We had a conversation at Christmas about using tables in HTML. Mum once said that he liked me visiting because he had someone to talk to about computers.

And the way I knew I had made it as a developer was the day he messaged me to ask me what the opposite of visibility: visible was. He could have got a quicker answer if he'd googled it, but he didn't need to, because he knew I'd know the answer.